How Much Do I Care About Amazon and Macmillan?
As I was reading my daily blog circuit, I asked myself, “How much do I care about this Amazon and Macmillan thing, anyway?” After thinking it over for a while, I decided that I care quite a bit. Enough for a blog post, even, and everyone knows that if it’s blog worthy, then it is vital.
So what is the Amazon-Macmillan thing, anyway? The short version is that Macmillan said that it wants to sell its ebook-for-the-Kindle at prices up to $15, and that’s $5 more than Amazon has set the price at. Amazon’s reaction was to pull all Macmillan ebooks, hardcovers, and softcovers from its store – no sales. After a couple days Amazon publicly relented, but the store still isn’t back to normal.
First, I’ll give two reasons that I don’t care about. I don’t care about is the Kindle. I hate the Kindle’s DRM, and I’m mildly surprised that so many otherwise-astute customers are willing to go along with it. Why on earth would you “buy” a copy of a book that Amazon can remotely remove from your possession without your consent ? You can pry my books out of my cold, dead hands is the way I feel about that type of thing.
The second thing I don’t care about is the price increase. One company is trying to keep prices low so that it can create a huge marketshare useful for future profits. One company wants to have a higher profit margin on bestselling books. I couldn’t possibly care less which one wins; they’re both trying to extract money out of me.
Here’s what I do care about: my relationship with Amazon. I’ve been their customer since 1998. (I even worked for them for a while in ’98-’99, when they bought PlanetAll.com). I use them because they’re easy and they have a decent price. I use them for their recommendations. I use them to let me know when my favorite authors and bands have new releases. I use them to complete trilogies and to find the early releases of my new favorite bands. I order from them so much that I bought Amazon Prime for $79/year, which gives me free shipping. Think about what my order volume is, given that I would spend more than $79 in shipping!
But I love my John Scalzi. I love my Charles Stross. I love my Orson Scott Card, Vernor Vinge and Neal Asher. And Amazon isn’t giving them to me! What kind of book store would I go to that wouldn’t sell me these authors? What kind of recommendation engine would skip these authors who have provided me with so many hours of amusement? The answer is: not one that I want to spend a lot of time in.
I’m not going so far as to boycott Amazon. When they have what I want at the right price, I’ll still buy it. But they’re no longer my go-to vendor. They’re no longer the place I go to find the new album or the new book that will keep me interested. I don’t trust them to give me the right answer anymore. I now know that they’re willing to throw away 1/6 of my bookshelf in order to wield pricing power on a product that I’ll never buy. Amazon broke my trust this weekend, and I’m no longer interested in what they think I’ll find interesting.
I logged in to Amazon tonight and set my Amazon Prime to non-renewal status. They didn’t ask why. I guess I know why not: they don’t care about what I want, anyway.